In professional sports, the figure of the “leader” can be underrated.
Sometimes, when a true leader speaks or has a specific gesture before a game, it can change his team’s approach, strategy, and motivation level.
In the 2023 World Baseball Classic, a few days before the start of the MLB season, Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani graduated from incredibly talented player to unquestioned leader.
Talkin’ Baseball helped us re-live a specific moment before the final game between Japan and the United States: Ohtani’s pregame speech in which he said they couldn’t beat the Americans if they admired them.
Here is what happened.
“Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama says Ohtani translator Ippei Mizuhara brought Mike Trout signed balls for players before facing US in the final, per @kokonoshima. A player asked for one. Trout signed for everyone. Then Ohtani said his ‘you can’t beat them if you admire them’ speech,” Talkin’ Baseball tweeted.
Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama says Ohtani translator Ippei Mizuhara brought Mike Trout signed balls for players before facing US in the final, per @kokonoshima
A player asked for one. Trout signed for everyone. Then Ohtani said his "you can't beat them if you admire them" speech pic.twitter.com/7jPu3SVlgc
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 9, 2023
Ohtani, the MVP of the tournament, had an incredible relief appearance in which he struck out Trout – who else? – to end the game.
Right then, during the speech, Japanese players listened to their leader, stopped prioritizing a signed ball, and went to the final with the appetite to win and give their country its third WBC trophy.
They did just that, beating a team full of major leaguers, MVPs, and accomplished stars.
That was the day in which Ohtani’s legacy went up another level.
He showed the world not only that he is great, but why.
He had an incredible WBC, is having an excellent season in the majors, and will sign a mammoth contract after the World Series.
It’s all deserved.NEXT: Shohei Ohtani Is Looking At A Record-Setting Payday